A woman dies every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth, according to a report released this Wednesday in Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report, prepared by WHO on behalf of the United Nations Interagency Maternal Mortality Estimation Group – which also includes the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Bank and the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs –tracks maternal deaths nationally, regionally and globally from 2000 to 2020 and shows that there were around 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020.
“This marks just a slight drop from the 309,000 deaths recorded in 2016, when the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) came into effect,” he said. the document.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned that the new data “reveals the urgent need to ensure that every woman and girl has access to critical health services before, during and after childbirth, and can fully exercise her rights reproductive”.
“While pregnancy should be a time of immense hope and a positive experience for all women, it is still tragically a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to quality health care,” added Ghebreyesus.
In two of the eight UN regions – Europe and North America and Latin America and the Caribbean – the maternal mortality rate increased from 2016 to 2020, by 17% and 15%, respectively, stresses the document, which states that in the rest the rate has stagnated.
The report highlighted, however, that there is also good news and gives the example of two regions – Australia and New Zealand and Central and South Asia – who experienced significant declines (by 35% and 16% respectively) in their maternal mortality rates over the same period, as was the case in 31 countries across the world.
Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell said “no mother should have to fear for her life while bringing a baby into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools are in place to treat common complications”.
According to the report, maternal deaths remain heavily concentrated in the world’s poorest areas and in conflict-affected countries.
In 2020, around 70% of all maternal deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, maternal mortality rates were more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 223 globally).
“This report provides yet another vibrant reminder of the urgent need to double our commitment to women and adolescent health”, defended the director general of Health, Nutrition and Population of the World Bank, Juan Pablo Uribe, who highlighted “more investments in primary health care and stronger, more resilient health systems”.
For the executive director of UNFPA, Natália Kanem, “it is unacceptable that so many women continue to die unnecessarily during pregnancy and childbirth” and “more than 280,000 deaths in a single year are incomprehensible”.
“We can and must do better by urgently investing in family planning and filling the global shortage of 900,000 midwives so that every woman can access life-saving care. We have the tools, knowledge and resources to end preventable maternal deaths, which what we need now is the political will”, stressed Natália Kanem.
The director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, John Wilmothe, maintained that “reducing maternal mortality remains one of the most pressing global health challenges”.
The report revealed that the world “must significantly accelerate progress towards meeting global targets to reduce maternal deaths, or else risk the lives of more than one million women by 2030”.
The SDG target for maternal deaths is for a global maternal mortality rate (MMR) of less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. The global MMR in 2020 is estimated at 223 maternal deaths per 100 thousand live births, down from 227 in 2015 and 339 in 2000.
Between 2000 and 2015, in the Millennium Development Goals period, the global annual rate of reduction was 2.7%, but it declined to negligible levels during the first five years of the SDG era (from 2016 to 2020).
The document explained that a maternal death is defined as a death due to complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, occurring when a woman is pregnant or within the first six weeks after the end of the pregnancy.